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Teaching Your Staff Password Hygiene: A Key to Strengthening Your Organization's Cybersecurity

Teaching Your Staff Password Hygiene: A Key to Strengthening Your Organization's Cybersecurity

One often overlooked aspect of cybersecurity is password hygiene. Strong password practices can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Password hygiene refers to the practices and habits users follow when creating, using, and managing their passwords. Good password hygiene ensures that passwords are strong, unique, and difficult for cybercriminals to guess or crack. By teaching your staff password hygiene, you create an additional layer of defense against potential cyber attacks and data breaches.

7 Tips for Teaching Password Hygiene

  1. Educate staff on the risks of weak passwords

Help your employees understand the importance of strong passwords by explaining the risks associated with weak ones. Share real-life examples of data breaches that occurred due to poor password practices and the consequences for those organizations.

  1. Create a password policy

Develop a clear and concise password policy for your organization. This policy should outline the requirements for password length, complexity, and expiration. Communicate this policy to your staff and ensure they understand the expectations. Although in lieu of the 2FA, NIST no longer enforces password expirations.

  1. Encourage the use of pass phrases

Instead of using single words or strings of characters, encourage employees to create passphrases. Passphrases are longer, easier to remember, and more difficult for hackers to crack. For example, instead of "P@ssw0rd1," an employee could use “Ilovetowatchmoviesonweekends!"

  1. Implement two-factor authentication (2FA)

While not directly related to password hygiene, implementing 2FA adds an additional layer of security to your organization's accounts. Encourage employees to enable 2FA for both personal and professional accounts whenever possible.

  1. Teach proper password storage

Storing passwords securely is just as important as creating strong ones. Teach your staff to avoid writing down passwords or storing them in easily accessible locations. Encourage the use of password managers, which securely store and manage passwords, making it easier for employees to maintain strong, unique passwords for each account.

  1.  Change Compromised Passwords

It used to be that cybersecurity professionals recommended users change their passwords on a regular schedule. However, this created some challenges and opened the door for bad actors to force their way in; keeping track of all of these constantly-changing passwords became frustrating and led to many users creating weak passwords with only minor changes that were easy to remember—but also easy to hack. After all, hackers can easily guess simple passwords or updated passwords that are nearly identical to previous versions. 

Today, the NIST recommends that users create strong passwords, then leave them alone unless they have been forgotten or there has been evidence of an authenticator compromise or another similar issue. 

  1. Conduct ongoing training and reinforcement

Password hygiene is not a one-time lesson. Regularly provide training and reminders to employees about the importance of strong password practices. Keep them informed about emerging threats and best practices for maintaining strong passwords.

Teaching your staff password hygiene is a critical component of your organization's overall cybersecurity strategy. By investing time and resources in educating your employees about strong password practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Remember that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and fostering a culture of security awareness and good password hygiene is key to protecting your organization's sensitive information.